MORGANTOWN -- Talk about the big 12 ... Connecticut seemed headed for a go-ahead touchdown Saturday in what at that third-quarter moment was an anything-but-sunny Mountaineer Field. Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the end zone.
Quarterback Johnny McEntee fumbled, and West Virginia middle linebacker Jewone Snow grabbed the ball and snowplowed his way 83 yards - the second longest fumble return in WVU history - to the UConn 12 before being tackled by Husky tight end Ryan Griffin.
"Yeah, he's heard about that (being tackled from behind), and he'll keep hearing about it. And I think a lineman got him," WVU senior linebacker Najee Goode said, laughing.
Two plays later, Geno Smith threw for 12 of WVU's team-record 469 passing yards and a touchdown to Tavon Austin. That's six.
"At the end of the day, this is high-level football and you have to make plays," UConn Coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "They made the plays and that play that that linebacker made hitting Johnny, that's a key play and a big play in the game. We just didn't make the plays."
The next series lasted one play - a pass in the flat from Smith to Steadman Bailey that the latter turned into an 84-yard touchdown, the fifth-longest in school history.
Six and six is 12 ... and the Mountaineers suddenly led 24-9 en route to a 43-16 rout in their Big East football opener.
"The 84-yard one really took the wind out of our sails," Pasqualoni said. "We came back from there but I just don't remember gaining field position again after that play."
West Virginia's defense didn't allow it, on a day when first-year Coach Dana Holgorsen found little to carp except his own giving "up on the run too early" as his 13th-ranked Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0) head into a midseason open week before an Oct. 21 Friday prime-timer at Syracuse (4-2, 0-1).
Smith was stellar again. He was 27-of-45 for 450 yards (13 short of his school record set in the LSU loss two weeks earlier) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He went by 5,000 career yards and 2,000 season yards and the junior's 438 career completions are about a game's-worth behind Athletic Director Oliver Luck's 466.
"He is capable of being as good as any quarterback in college football," said Holgorsen, presumably including Luck's son, Heisman Trophy-favorite Andrew Luck of Stanford. "He still puts too much on his shoulders; there was a point in that second quarter and he did some things, which we will address.
"He doesn't need to take over the game and once he 100-percent understands that, he will keep getting better."
Bailey and sophomore Ivan McCartney each provided 100-yard receiving days, giving the Mountaineers a school-record nine of those performances this season. The other seven Big East teams have 10 of those 100-yard catching days, combined, this season.